1995. Neoism, Plagiarism & Praxis
I was reasonably good friends with Stewart from 1984, when I met him in London at Apt 8, the 8th International Neoist Apartment Festival, until I dared criticize him in 1993 (or thereabouts) after he gave his Victoria & Albert Museum speech. It was then that I realized that, ahem, Stewart didn't handle criticism well. In fact, he became completely sociopathically enraged & proceeded to slander me as viciously as possible. This book is a pretty good indication of how the more 'polite' part of it unfolded. I won't reproduce here the more vicious parts that were in other places.
Stewart had plagiarized Gustav Metzger & Henry Flynt by instigating an Art Strike for 3 years from 1990 to 1993. I had mixed feelings about the Art Strike. Mainly I felt that it was making creative activity revolve too much around the context of "art" in a way that was counterproductive to an Art Strike's ostensible purpose of removing art from general available production. Nonetheless, I ultimately saw the Art Strike as more of a provocation, a stimulus to discussion of such issues as: is such a thing even possible? As such, I participated in some ways. I didn't stop 'producing art' because I didn't consider my activities to be 'art production' in the 1st place. In fact, I don't know of anyone who ceased making art during this time, including Stewart who had at least one book published then.
Sometime shortly thereafter or during the Art Strike, there was an exhibit of SMILE magazines at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London with Simon Ford curating. Ford had Home give a talk at the museum & also interviewed Home. The interview appears in this book.
I read Stewart's speech & was critical of it so I wrote a piece called "History Begins Where Life Ends" & made a small mailable pamphlet from it that I put Stewart's return address on. I put the name "David A. Bannister" as the sender name & wrote the essay under the same name about a person with the same name. Stewart was never explicitly mentioned.
I then sent some of these to London where a friend of mine agreed to mail them out. That meant that any that went to no-longer-good addresses got 'returned' to Stewart. While I was serious in my criticisms I chose this approach as gentle & humorous. Please read the following passage in Stewart's interview with Ford:
I call attention to this detail:
Stewart made the claim that documents responding to his V&A talk "could be a foretaste of what" he'd "like to see happen". Given that I may've been the only person to actually seriously do this, I can attest from unpleasant 1st-hand experience that Stewart definitely did not want that to happen. Here's the complete pamphlet that I made & sent out. Please read it carefully if you want to understand these things:
The only place that I know of (although there may be more) in this book where Stewart actually directly references the above pamphlet is in a footnote on page 30:
Note, for starters, that I am now referred to as "ex-Neoist Michael Tolson". I wonder what made me an "ex-Neoist"? I don't wonder why he gives my name as "Michael Tolson": since that's my legal name this was the beginning of a character defamation campaign of truly Nazi-like ruthlessness.
Note that now Stewart claims that I'm demonstrating "the complete rigidity of" my "thinking by taking" Stewart's "statements on the Art Strike and related topics as literally as any book bore." So, what exactly is a "book bore"? Note also that "Tolson wails" - this is a typical propaganda technique: instead of just quoting me & commenting on the quote, he refers to what I said & tells the reader what to think of it without actually showing it to them. After all, he doesn't really want them to read it! They might find something valid in it.
I didn't just write something, I 'wailed' it. Ordinarily, 'wailing' is something that people do to express strong emotions. I think Stewart's implication here is that I'm being 'hysterical' & not keeping a cool head. 'Wailing' is something that hired women mourners do or jazz saxophonists. But wailing is an aural thing, it's something that's done aloud. Whatever Stewart's referring to was written. Now, if I'd written it as a Sound Poetry text with evocative typography, perhaps such a description would be accurate - but, NO, that's not what this is about. Propaganda is about demeaning another person & making the weak fearful of even studying the opinions under attack.
I'm reminded of a song called "Sport" by Vivian Stanshall on Bonzo Dog Band's record entitled "Keynsham". Here're the lyrics to that:
The Odd Boy lay down by the football field, took out a slim volume of Mallarme,
The centre-forward called him an imbecile; it's an Odd Boy who doesn't like Sport.
Sport, sport, masculine sport; equips a young man for Society,
Yes, sport turns out a jolly good sort, it's an Odd Boy who doesn't like Sport.
Is a "book bore" an intellectual? A writer? A reader? I assume that Stewart is proud of his being, or at least pretending to be, all of those things. But maybe he prefers to have things both ways: when he's analyzing literature he's not a "book bore", he's an intellectual. Consider the following excerpts from Ford's interview with Home:
I wonder: does Ford actually know Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor)? Has he talked with him? Has he read his writing? Or is his opinion that "even minor Situationists appear more intellectually sophisticated than Neoists such as Istvan Kantor" based primarily or solely on Stewart's character assassination of Kantor? It's actually easy to find out who Stewart's more weak-minded friends are by reading what they have to say & comparing it to what Stewart says. If it's basically a paraphrase of Stewart then it's not really 'their thoughts' it's their parroting of Stewart's statements. Geza Pereneczky is a person whose history of neoism has beeen directly paraphrased from Home - at least in the little I've seen of it. Is he a "book bore"?
Character Assassination against specific individuals works very well if the perpetrator just keeps at it. It's partially a matter of making the people around you feel like they'd be obvious fools if they had any other opinion. It even works with otherwise intelligent people who just gradually internalize the negative opinion as if it's their own - even if they don't actually know the target. Take the example of investigative journalist Larry O'Hara. He's written things about Stewart accusing him of being an asset for MI6, the foreign intelligence service of the UK. O'Hara's point seems to be that Stewart pushes ideological agendas that coincide with those of the police state by attacking anarchists.
Stewart's vindictiveness went so far as to make an audio piece ridiculing O'Hara that was published as a part of the Luther Blissett "The Open Pop Star" CD. I don't know O'Hara's work at all. Did the Italian publishers know it? Did they have any reason to support mocking him other than Stewart's 'word' that it deserved to be done? For me, that mars an otherwise excellent publication.
Stewart seems to rely on an absolute lack of analytical rigor in his readers. He's intent on bullying his way through. As such, he doesn't even bother to try to fix his contradictions. Instead, he seems to rely on no-one noticing them or daring to point them out.
It's mind-bogglingly hypocritical &/or ironic when he says that Istvan Kantor "has been completely compromised by the art system" given that Stewart is saying this to a Victoria & Albert Museum curator who's had him come to the museum to speak after putting on an exhibit of a magazine that Stewart founded. Apparently, that's NOT being "compromised by the art system". With Stewart, this, again apparently, is just being 'successful' while such a thing would be being 'compromised' in Istvan's case.
By the by, John Berndt never wrote anything in response to Stewart's V&A speech. IMO (In My Opinion) that's probably because he didn't want to risk being written out of Neoist history or otherwise attacked. "Blaster" did write something called "THE STEWART HOME ART STRIKE HISTORY (An Appreciation by Blaster Al Ackerman)" which, as far as I know, was never printed anywhere until it appeared in my Street Rat-Bag #3 in 2000.
The purpose of this web-page is to show yet-another book in which I have something published or am mentioned, if only to a minimal degree. Despite the obvious energy I've invested in refuting or debating some of the things written in the book, my effort here is only a small one since it's not really my primary purpose. To continue showing relevant passages:
Stewart makes 'definitive' statements as if he's an ultimate 'objective' 'expert' on the subject. There are rarely or never qualifiers such as "IMO" or "I think" & such-like. Instead it's "they presented society with an angst-ridden image of itself. Their activities are typified by Kiki Bonbon's film Flying Cats. Two men, dressed in white coats, stand on top of a tower block. They have with them a selection of cats. One at a time, the cats are picked up and thrown to their death." Given that it was only Kiki & Zbigniew who were performing these actions & none of the other Neoists, I don't particularly find it 'typical'. What it is is sensational, it makes for 'good' dirt for Stewart's readers.
Then the reader is told that "The last big Neoist event was the 64th (sic) Apartment Festival organized by Graf Haufen and Stiletto in Berlin, December 1986." Stewart says it's true so let's repeat that ad nauseum shall we? The Berlin Apt Fest wasn't really that big & there were Neoist events after it such as Ultimatum II in Montréal in 1987, the Festival of Non-Participation in Scotland in 1988, the One Millionth Apt Fest in NYC in 1988, the Zerowork Jubilee in Toronto in 1992, & even Stiletto's TV Hospital in Berlin in 1994. Given that what constitutes a "big Neoist event" is open to question there're arguments to be made against some of those but I choose to include them.
Again, Stewart's purpose here is to commit character assassination rather than to write serious cultural criticism. He only gives it the appearance of serious cultural criticism. He wrote that "Kantor failed to raise money for the 'Neoist Cultural Conspiracy' through the sale of his blood. The use of bodily fluids in 'art works' was already too common." Perhaps Stewart hasn't noticed that the use of paint in paintings is pretty common too but they still sell for millions. When Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor) doesn't sell his blood works he's a failure. Shouldn't his being supposedly compromised by the Art World make it so that he can at least sell his blood?
"The younger members of the group were very receptive to 'my' ideas about plagiarism. Older Neoists such as Pete Horobin and tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE were more interested in inventing some new universal language." You know how those old farts are. I was 30 years old when I met Stewart & when we started having exchanges re plagiarism. Stewart had just turned 22. I was all of 8 years older than him. At 1st, I was receptive to his ideas about plagiarism but I quickly found them to be shallow.
The hate campaign against Monty Cantsin (Istvan Kantor) continues: The reader is told in the usual pseudo-objective voice of authority that Kantor is on "the fringes of the group" of neoists in Montréal. Keep in mind that Stewart has never met any of those people other than Istvan. I knew them all. Istvan was the main mover & shaker of Neoist activity there. The reader's told that Kantor was 'clueless' & 'conventional'. Why not just say that his only having 1 leg caused him to constantly trip? Oh, right, there's only so far that you can lie & still have people believe you.
According to Stewart, I share "with Cage a delight in a 'beat' version of 'Zen' that finds silence 'profound'." Gee, I didn't know that. It's odd that I have little or no interest in Zen & that, as far as I know, I've never written or anywhere in any way stated such a sentiment as that expressed above.
According to Stewart, I'm obsessed "with the 'commodification' of culture". Gee, I must not think about much else then, right? I mean, I'm obsessed. Once again, Stewart tells the reader what to think & uses derogatory language to do so. I can definitely be 'obsessed': I'm 'obsessed' with music, for example - but as far as the "'commodification' of culture" goes: it's something that I've commented on from time-to-time but I can't really agree that I'm 'obsessed' with it. But, since Stewart can't make solid argumentation, he resorts to his usual character assassination.
But when Stewart wants someone to know that, yeah, he's a friend of mine he stops being so derogatory for a change. I reckon I am good for his career every once in a while.
&, yes, we were friends & probably still are from time-to-time:
But, please, reader, don't take what he writes as 'fact', please be a critical reader:
In the long run, Stewart has tried, & definitely succeeded at times, to cause harm to anyone who dares to publicly disagree with him. At the same time that he's milked his connection to Neoism to build his career, he's also viciously attacked Neoism & other Neoists. At the same time that he seems to be marketing his work to anarchists, he seems to hate anarchists & to abuse us at just about any opportunity. Since he does this in the name of Neoism this has caused many anarchists to hate Neoists without really understanding that Stewart doesn't represent us. Seeing this happen, I eventually resorted to writing letters to 2 anarchist magazines to try to counterbalance Stewart's CoIntelPro type activities:
I haven't actually shown every mention of me here. I'm also referenced in the book as "Monty Cantsin" & "Person". AND, much as it may seem to the contrary, I don't completely hate this book. It definitely represents a major effort on Stewart's part. Let's just hope he never gets the power he seems to be obsessively jockeying for or he might stop writing books & start sending out hit-men.
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